tv Sen. Chris Murphy Discusses War Powers CSPAN December 7, 2021 5:48am-6:56am EST
>> greetings. good afternoon. welcome to -- my name is eric gomez, the director of defense policy studies at the cato institute. event is streaming on the cato institute website, twitter, youtube. we are also live on c-span. you can submit questions. for many decades, the u.s. has fought in dozens of conflicts around the world without a declaration of war. the last time congress passed a declaration of war was in world war ii despite the active post war global military presence. congress has not been absent from decisions of war and peace. the concentration of power in the executive branch at the
expense of the legislature. the end of the u.s. military mission creates an opportunity to reverse the trend and restore congress's power. this would bring policy decisions back in line with the constitution and reduce the likelihood of dangerous military adventurism abroad. this year, bipartisan groups in the house and senate have introduced form bills that would begin the reassertion of the legislative war powers. we are delighted to have one of the legislators here with us today. the policy form will discuss the role of congress in foreign policy and the recent push to reassert the legislative branch over war authorizations, arms sales, emergency declarations. we were joined by senator chris murphy and jordan cohen and gene
healy. senator murphy will give introductory remarks. we are very grateful to have him here with us. chris murphy from connecticut is a sponsor of the national security powers act of 2021 it, cosponsored by bernie sanders of vermont and mike lee of utah. he serves on the foreign relations committee and is the chair of the foreign relations subcommittee on the near east, south asia, counterterrorism. he's the chair of the senate appropriations subcommittee on homeland security. the floor is yours. [applause] sen. murphy: thank you very much for the introduction. thanks to my friends of the cato institute for hosting me here today. i am grateful to be joined by jean and jordan.
i'm sorry i won't be able to stay for the full remarks. i look forward to a download. i respect greatly their work. i'm looking forward to this discussion. i want to thank the cato institute for highlighting what i believe to be a very broken balance of power and national security matters between the congress and the executive branch. i'm grateful. this is a moment where we have a congress represented by republicans and democrats that is engaged in this issue then anytime before. it may be hackneyed to start with a discussion of our founders when we are talking about who is in charge of declaring war. how can you start anywhere else? the federalist papers get the attention. in 1793, hamilton and madison do
a back-and-forth, a series of essays contesting their visions of the balance between the legislative branch and the executive branch. madison who gets a lot of credit as the primary driver of the idea behind the constitution, talks about what happens when an emergency arises, that necessitates quick action, he's talking about military action. you can see there may be limited moments in which the president has to act. he cautioned that these instances should be few and far between. he believes as most of the founders did, that congress -- it's important that congress reserve this power to decide when america interferes in the world for itself. he says this.
these emergencies are great and extraordinary cases and should by no means be submitted to so limited and organ of the national will as the executive of the united states. that would pain a lot of presidents to hear them described as a limited organ of the national will. it shows you that the founders, in particular madison, believe there was one branch that was the place where the great public debates were supposed to happen. the big decisions, those decisions about national security, those connected to these foreign entanglements our founders thought needed to happening congress. in another essay, madison says those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things be proper and safe judges.
another fascinating idea. those who are in the business of conducting the war don't have the proper perspective to be able to make sound judgments about whether the war should be started or continued or whether it should be concluded. the founding fathers believed that the executive branch needed to share foreign policymaking. the decision about inception and conclusion and it came to war and foreign entanglements, that had to be vested in the people's branch. it's kind of interesting. the president respected this investment in the congress. think about some of the earliest military engagements. some of our wars with native
american tribes, they were declared by congress. the president withholding the decision to commit u.s. forces and resources until a decision was made by congress. in other national security matters, presidents also respected this balance. alliances in our early years, they were entered into mostly through formal treaties, requiring congressional a set -- approval. over the years, this shift from legislative power with respect to national security matters to executive power has been substantial. clearly modern presidents are using frequent means to enter
into war. this is without consulting congress. the pace of the military activity today is fairly breathtaking. americans would tell you we were at war in afghanistan, we are still at war interact. we have deployed combat truths -- troops to 20 nations since 2001. we've conducted at least 14,000 unmanned airstrikes in every corner of the world. our military has killed almost 50,000 civilians through unmanned strikes since 2001. presidents over the last 30 years have used a few methods to escape from madison's requirement that war be declared by the people's branch of government. these methods are more frequent and more nuanced. presidents will decide that the actions of the military do not
constitute war. we see that with the case in yemen. you find that with and man -- unmanned aerial strikes. residents declare that the circumstances are so exigent that the president cannot come to congress in time. this was contemplated by madison. now these emergencies, whether they be connected to an imminent attack or are necessary to retaliate against an attack on u.s. forces, seem to come on a monthly basis. presidents often decide the action is covered by an existing war authorization. that's why we are pushing an effort to get at least two war authorizations off the books. others have been stretched beyond their reasonable interpretation.
when it comes to our alliance structure, presidents today rarely enter into treaties. they have found other ways to cement alliances that don't mess a state -- necessitate coming to congress. you can just sell a couple billion dollars in arms. and have those to you. they are bound to us in one way, shape, or form. or the massive drone sales. the sales don't have to be approved by congress. the executive branch can do the business of alliance building
without congressional approval. we come to the legislation we are going to talk about. this is the national security powers act. our belief is this piece of legislation will reset the balance. let me show you how it does. on warmaking, first and foremost, it makes explicit what i believe to be implicit in the construction of the warmaking power of the constitution. if the president doesn't have authorization for a particular activity, they cannot use public funds to carry out that activity. both in the constitution and the war powers acted self, that is
stipulated. our national security powers act makes that absolutely clear. without authorization, the executive branch cannot act. they lose funding authority to do that. we squeeze the timelines to make sure congress gets in the game on an earlier basis. this gives the president leeway to start activity without coming to congress. it defines what war is. that is left to almost open interpretation. you can never again to get a situation like yemen where we are giving targeting advice does not constitute hostilities in the administration's mind. on arms sales, the change we make is a simple one. it's incredibly meaningful.
the president doesn't need approval to sign off on arms sale. congress has the power to disapprove. that resolution has to be passed. it have to be signed by the president who is proposing the sale. you need to have a treaty majority, a two thirds majority in order to effectuate a resolution of disapproval. it is going to be vetoed by the president. for the most important arms sales, we reverse that presumption. for the big arms sales, especially the non-treaty allies, nations where it is effectively binding the united states to that country, we require the president get proactive congressional assent. just like he would need for a treaty or declaration of war.
in practice and principle, they have the same impact often as a treaty. i am looking forward to continuing to broaden the coalition of interest groups and members of congress who are working on this legislation. there is no reason for this to be republican or democrat issue. i believe this balance needs to be reset, no matter who is in the white house. at a moment when the country is having an open conversation about the efficacy of democracy, this is part and parcel of that conversation. americans are wondering if democracy is relevant. that has to do with their economic existence is much tougher than they expected it to be.
it also has to do with the fact that they see their sons and daughters, their neighbors being put at risk overseas. their dollars are being used to fund massive engagements and places of the world completely unfamiliar to americans. they don't feel like they have input over that. they see decisions being made about war, they never get a chance to engage with their member of congress. they never see a debate. you can't fault them when they wonder whether democracy still works in the way they were taught in school. whether or not war was something i approve of, i will leave you with a story. i think one of the most consequential moments of
president obama's presidency was when he decided with his chief of staff that he would refrain from launching airstrikes in syria until he had one congressional approval. hawks saw this as a sign of weakness. a sign of indecision. they urged him to take that fight to syria without congressional authorization. i saw that decision as a declaration of strength, the strength of our constitution that this document, this series of words on a paper could limit a president to clear war. i saw its impact. people lament that americans are not invested in matters of national security. they care more about bread-and-butter economic issues. i will tell you, that is not the case when it matters. it was labor day weekend, 2013
when president obama said he was going to ask congress for a vote. i can count on one hand the number of moments i would call supermarket moments. those are when you are in the supermarket and something matter so much to your constituents that they don't wait to come up to you and enter into a conversation. they yell at you from across the supermarket. that was one of those moments. labor day weekend, i was home in connecticut. they wanted me to vote against that authorization. they had had enough in the middle east. to me, that is a sign of the first -- thirst americans have
when it comes to input into these big questions. these decisions, whether or not to declare war, they are tougher and harder than they were generations ago. the enemies are harder to define. they are changing and metastasizing. it is sometimes hard to tell when a war ends. madison believed forcing the public debate around matters of war and peace and national security make the country safer. they were right. i am so glad that a lot of people in this town are committed to reviewing the national security powers act. i really believe that if we reinvest congress through this reform, with the power that our founders believed should rest in
the article one branch, the world will be a safer place. thank you for the cato institute for hosting me today. [applause] >> thank you very much, senator. a question for you before you have to at out, someone asked on the -- if you think the war in afghanistan would have ended sooner if congress had more of a role. i wanted to get your opinion on how do you and your other sponsors view the role of the war in afghanistan in all of this? is this a sort of closing of the chapter of a long-running concept that congress wasn't doing enough oversight or how did that play into your decision-making? sen. murphy: i think congress
abdication extends to oversight, not just the declaration of war. we can certainly tell this story through the prism of afghanistan. 10 years ago, we were beginning to be told that the minute we left, the minute our forces departed, the taliban would take over. why did it take us 10 years to make a decision about whether we should stay or go when it was clear that the way in which we were doing things is fundamentally broken a decade ago. my hope is bypassing this legislation or a version of this legislation, it breeds courage back into congress, not just on these formal mechanisms of approving an arm sale or declaring war, but on the oversight itself. it will make executives a little
bit more careful about how they engage with congress. if an executive knows they need to get proactive approval from congress, they are going to share much more information with us about national security policy. i just want to fight with my colleagues to allow every member of the senate to have one staffer that has access to classified information. it is stunning to meet the amount of information that remains classified. that is deliberate. the executive branch tries to hoard information about the conduct of war, to shade from public view information that is embarrassing. information that is embarrassing. now with more congressional access to that information, we will do better oversight.
while not formally about the business of oversight, this will give congress a better sense of that mission. >> thank you very much. sen. murphy: thank you very much, everybody. appreciate it. [applause] >> this is the start of an excellent conversation. thank you to senator murphy for coming today. i'm going to introduce my colleagues to continue the conversation. jordan: is a policy analyst. he works on primarily issues of arm sales. he's the co-author of the arm sale risk index.
as a reminder or people in the outings, we have microphones where you can ask questions. online, summit your questions via the window on the streaming page or you can use the hash tag . jordan? please start us off. jordan: thanks for coming. thank you, eric. it's cool to be back in person. i know what everybody missed about in-person events, statements and speeches on his debt issues to go over the time limit. i hate to disappoint. i'm going to try to keep these brief. when we talk about arms sales,
frequently what we look at and what the discussion is framed upon our issues of strategy and security and issues of economics. when we talk about strategy, are these going to allies used to help fight adversaries? listen to trump talk about weapon sales or any president prior to trump, jobs jobs jobs. one of the areas that is undiscussed when it comes to weapon sales is the analysis of risk and how risk from these sales affects u.s. policy in the future. our research has identified four broad areas of risk, for ways weapons can raise problems. the first is blowback. if you look at iraq and afghanistan, where isis have been using weapons to kill soldiers, this is what blowback is. second is entanglement. the u.s. gets involved in
conflicts it would otherwise not want to be involved in. this is what is going on in yemen. the u.s. is supplying weapons to the saudi's that are used against innocent civilians in yemen. the third is we use weapons and they upgrade to terrorism. we've seen this in the philippines during the pandemic. the filipino government used u.s. weapons to arrest opposition it the government. finally, we look at dispersion. we find ideas that these are dispersed and end up in the wrong hands because they go to unstable nations. the taliban has access to u.s. weapons in afghanistan. why hasn't congress done anything? is senator murphy -- it's a supermarket problem. arm sales are low hanging issues. i'm going to talk about the
legislative problem and how this would work to overturn this and change this. i'm going to give a brief history of the legislation and talk about why congress can't do anything. i will conclude about how this helps. a brief history, nobly cares about restricting weapon sales until the 1970's. you have the u.s. using weapons in to arab-israeli wars. you have the withdrawal from vietnam. you have watergate. now congress cared about weapon sales. in 1974, senator nelson and john bingham past the amendment. the nelson bingham act was the plan to restrict weapon sales. any sale over 25 million dollars, congress had to review and pass a resolution of disapproval. this led to a few problems.
the present could just sell weapons at $24.9 million and get around the barrier. 20 days is a convenient time. the second congress goes to recess, the president could propose a sale and congress did not have time to look over the sale. you had small problems like most of the sales, there is no timeline for when the president had been notified. many occurred before congress could intervene. finally, there was no consequence of commercial sales. congress reevaluates in 1976 and passes the act. first, it lowers the 25 million dollar mark to $7 million. congress had to be notified and had 30 days to review. on top of that, it added language about arms exports.
here is the problem. between the control act and 38 other pieces of legislation, congress still can't restrict the president. we know that because not one since the passage has congress ever invoked it to stop a sale. this was clear under donald trump when he tried five times selling weapons to saudi arabia. congress did not have enough votes. three times, trump used his powers to veto it or overrule it. this leads to the two broadest problems. you hear about work hours in war-- war powers and war, not necessarily weapons sales.
second, the president has this veto he can use at any point to stop a weapons sale from continuing, or to let it continue and stop congress from blocking the sale from occurring. with 30 days to block a transfer, it isn't in long time. it requires congress to get all the information, evaluate, and then gather the votes. donald trump shifted to small arms and light weapons to be reviewed in the department of commerce, no longer the department of state, and the risk is very focused on economics and on security risks. finally, as we learn from when donald trump used emergency other position to allow 22 separate weapons pieces to be sold to saudi arabia, the president can invoke emergency use authorization. so the legislation that senator chris murphy is cosponsoring and we are seeing in the house and the senate does a lot to overrule this, and i would argue it is the most restrictive, most
empowering piece of legislation to restrict weapon sales in united states history. number one, as senator murphy pointed out, it flips the script on arms sales. "flip the script" was the language used by joe biden in the 1980's. right now congress to stop the sale has to issue a joint resolution of disapproval. that requires a simple majority in both houses, house and senate, and then having the house and senate have a two- thirds majority to overrule the veto. that doesn't happen. what this legislation does is rather than having congress disapprove of an arms sale, anytime the president agrees to unum sale, congress has to fight to approve this sale. that has two huge benefits. first off, means congress and
the president and the lobbyist groups need to do a lot more to say, hey, this is important can we should let this sale go through. people generally don't care about the sales. when congress wants to approve a sale for weapons to yemen to be used for purposes to attack civilians, they have to be able to defend that. that is really hard. second and more importantly, it gets rid of the presidential veto. right now congress has to pass a joint resolution of disapproval. if senator chris murphy's legislation goes through, there will be no requirement to do that, because the status quo would be no sale. all of a sudden the situation is featured and congress passes a resolution of veto for the sale. secondly, it restricts emergency waivers and adds a lot of requirements to use emergency waivers, including the weapons
to be delivered in 60 days. the president has to submit the determination of justification for each sale and it does not apply to weapons coproduced outside the united states. this is comprehensive legislation. this is a high bar notification to get the state department to get notifications to congresspeople. the commerce department as of now controls commercial sales, and there is no precise method for risk assessment in this legislation. with that said, this legislation will work to reduce risks from weapons sales in a way no legislation has previously. thank you. [applause] >> thank you all for being here, whether physically or virtually
jordan has covered arms sales. i will cover the two remaining issues under the heading of national security powers. that is war and national emergency authority. i will start with a look at what the constitution has to say about presidential war and emergency powers, and i will turn to where we are now, why it is terrible, what congress might be able to do to make it less terrible, and the general prospects for reform. i am really happy to say that -- i was worried about it, but nobody here that i can remember -- people who i think are under the right side of these issues often senators and congressmen talking about recapturing congress's constitutional authority will say "we are a coequal branch," like a peer,
somebody that is entitled to their opinion and a little respect. it has always seemed to me that that phrase sells congress short . in the physical architecture of the city, by design, the capitol building looms over the president's house. the constitutional architecture has a similar design. congress comes first in article i, as madison said, small-r republican government, legislative authority predominates. and on paper, especially when it comes to what constitutional powers over war and national emergencies, congress is absolutely dominant, not coequal. virtually every war and military power you can find in the constitution belongs to congress. it is left to congress to raise
and support armies, make rules for the use, provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, and importantly, to declare war. what does the president get? according to the first sentence of article ii, he gets the executive power. and presidential partisans over the years have tried to torture penumbras and emanations out of the closet that give the president the power to launch wars, but it is the executive powers principally the power to faithfully execute the laws, to enact, to make concrete policy decisions that congress has already made. article ii, section ii, makes the president the commander-in-chief of the army and navy, of course in another clause that executive-power
enthusiasts have seized upon for the presidential power to make war. but as hamilton explained in federalist 69, it just makes the president the first general and admiral of u.s. armed forces, and generals and admirals have an important role, they generally don't get to decide e hether, when, and with whom we go to war. i'm a little embarrassed to have to go to the federalist papers after senator murphy went for a deep cut with the debates between madison and hamilton. the constitutional scheme, the president's military powers are likely defensive. madison's notes from the convention, it is described as the power to repel sudden attacks, which does not include the power to launch them, even if the president it might be a good idea. the declare war clause was
considered to be a real limit, not a legal formality. pennsylvania's james wilson, one of the framers, who had been there at the philadelphia convention, explained the ratifying convention what the declare war clause was understood to mean. there was there so that this system will not recast into more and it would not be the power of a single man to rule the country in such distress because the power of declaring more is vested in the latest -- declaring war is vested in the legislature at large. as for national emergency powers, another aspect of presidential powers that this legislation addresses, justice jackson put it nicely in the steel seizure case in 1952. he said that the framers knew what emergencies were, but he also knew that they have a
pretext for usurpation. he suspected that emergency powers might tend to kindle emergencies. aside from the suspension of habeas corpus, a power granted to congress, not the president, the framers made no express provision for exercise of an extraordinary authority because of the crisis. i do not think we may rightfully amend their words, he said. if you scratch while you are looking at the constitution, you might be able to make out a single emergency power that it gives to the president. article ii, section 3 gives the power to for the president to call congress into session for extraordinary occasions, like a national emergency, and that is so they can tell him what to do. he is a limited organ of the national will determined by congress. what we have now looks
dramatically different than what i have just described to you. this assistant will not hurry us into war. that is the way it was supposed to work, but in the 21st century, as senator murphy alluded to, we have seen the emergence of a radically different regime in which going to war is easy, frequent, and rarely debated. in 2017, barack obama left office is the first two-term president in american history to have been at war every single day of his presidency. his last year alone dropping over 26,000 bombs on seven different countries. nine months into his tenure, donald trump had blown past that tally, all based on the theory that congress three days after 9/11 preapproved all of this activity in the 2001 authorization of the use of
military force, one congress, one vote, one time. president trump seized dangerous new ground in 2020 by using the targeted killing machinery from the war on terror to illuminate iranian major general cason soleimani, the first time in american president has publicly ordered the assassination of a top government official for a country we are not legally at war with. this assistant will not hurry us into peace. on the home front, the last presidency -- our last president , not to subject him to too much abuse, but he did show the danger of larding the federal code with over 100
statutory powers through which the president can unlock emergency authorities simply by saying that -- the magic words "national emergency." it seemed never to have occurred to previous presidents that you could use such powers to do an e nd run around congress in the budget battle and snatch funding for a project that congress has repeatedly refused to support the levels you want. but that is what president trump did in february 2019 when he declared a national emergency at the southern border to build the wall and shift billions of dollars that congress had not appropriated for that purpose, congress be damned. sometimes when we talk about the constitution and the framers, it can sound like we are saying we should just keep faith with
those guys come we don't want to make james madison sad. i say that is not the spirit in which i make these comparisons. i think it is important to know what the law is if you want to change it, constitutional law. but i would say in particularly the area of war and emergency powers, there is a skeptical view of human nature i think has been borne out. the reluctance to cede unchecked authority is something that we learn again and again had wisdom in it. how we got here.' the phrase "flip the script" is
right -- that is what the modern president-centered regime has done. jordan talked a little bit about this in the context of arms sales. in the original design, the president had defensive tools such as a veto to put back when it overstepped. the way things have evolved in recent decades, the president gets mostly a free hand for action in many different areas, unless a congressional super majority of both houses can be assembled to stop it. the president proposes in the present disposes -- the president proposes and the president disposes, thanks to a 1983 supreme court decision that congressional attempts to rein in presidential action have to themselves run the gauntlet of
ordinary legislative process and be subject to presidential signature or veto. since the president is going to veto attempts to overturn what he has just done in practice, it makes it vetoproof majority -- it takes a vetoproof majority to undo it, which takes a higher bar than impeaching and removing the president from office which takes a majority in the house and a super majority in the senate. whatever the formal merits of this decision, the upshot was to shift the default setting of american government toward unilateral presidential action. you can see how this is operated by looking at president trump's use of the veto power. in 8 of the 10 vetoes issue during his single term, the president beat back attempts to
reverse unilateral actions that commercial majority oppose. jordan referred to three of those cases involving arms sales to saudi arabia and the uae. there is another one for the rohr powers resolution in bed stopping u.s. support for the saudi's -- saudis' war in yemen. despite the fact that the jefferson called the veto and attempt to shield the president from the legislature, it has become like the opposite, and weapon that allows the president to seize new powers and use the veto to keep them off that is what happened -- keep them. that is what happened with vetoes of attempts by the house and the senate to overturn trump's order while emergency, and after the targeted killing of soleimani, he used to be towed defeat another resolution aimed at restraining his ability to be to wage undeclared war
against iran. as jordan alluded to, one of the most important things that this legislation does, significant, let's say, his attempt to flip the script or the switch back and change the default setting on war and national emergencies and arms sales so unilateral actions require congressional approval to stick, which would get far closer to the way things were supposed to work. the act has a couple of other important things as well. it tightens the definition of hostilities so among other things the future president would not be able to our do, as the obama administration did in libya, that it is not hostilities if you are bombing them and they can't hit you
back, which was the argument for going beyond the time limits of the war powers resolution in the libya case. senator murphy talked about the enforcement mechanism via the power of the purse and the sunset of four existing aumf's including the 2001 aumf, blank check that has caused so much president for mischief. there are some things it doesn't do. it won't resolve the issue of 2001 aumfj replacement,-- 2001 aumf replacement, but not providing for that was a wise choice because it does not need -- properly understood to be replaced. it does not tackle the problem of the existing and emergent -- delegations of emergency authority larde throughout the
federal code, but perhaps a commission sometime in the future that comes through existing laws to tighten and eliminate would be worth pursuing at some point. what are the chances that something like this could pass? i'm not known around the office for my sunny optimism, but i do have to say that the prospects for a major effort of some sort aimed ad de--- d eimperializing the presidency, the stars are aligned more than they were at any time since watergate. in 1973, the original work powers resolution had to pass over richard nixon's veto. the current president is at
least a fair weather fan of congressional work hours. running for---congressional war powers. running for president in 2008, president biden was on record saying george w. bush should be impeached if you try to take the war to iran without congressional approval. a decade before that, he introduced a war powers replacement bill called the use of force act that in some respects -- like the bill we have been talking about today, would have automatically cut off funding for wars that congress didn't authorize. it is not clear how much all that is worth. joe biden has had five decades in politics, enough time to get on both sides of every issue. what is more, there are very few presidents doing the arduous, relating things you have to do to win the presidency -- humiliating things have to do to
win the presidency saying that now that i'm here, what i would really like is to have less power. we will have to see. let me close by saying any such measure, whether it is national security powers act or something else, before it can get to the president's desk, congress would need to pass it, and that takes work. what's worse, if something like this passed, it would mean even more work for congress going forward. the national security powers act would have to stand and be counted on the weapons we decide to sell in the wars that presidents want to fight. in his remarks back in july when he and his colleagues introduced this act, senator murphy was frank and almost apologetic about what the bill would mean. used the word "workload" several
times. it would mean a greater workload for the senate armed services committee and the workload of congress as a whole on a national security measures. he said rightly that the country would be better off with more public debates on which wars we get into and the ways that this nation exports wars. welcome is probably not wrong to think that you have to control -- control -- well, it is probably not wrong to think that you have to cajole members of congress to do their jobs, because letting the president make the important cause has been a sweet deal for congressmen and women. it takes a huge weight of responsibility off their shoulders and leave them to focus on constituent service and potentially take shots at the president when the wars they have not authorized and of going badly. while i can't by temperament and
tax status make a case for voting that congress is anyone in congress should vote for a particular bill, i might be able to say more generally why an effort to reclaim congressional authority might be worth the extra work even to members of congress. it is no secret that the public holds congress in very low esteem. you can see this in the long-running survey data on public faith in various american institutions. gallup and other organizations give likely voters a list of prominent institutions and say "tell me how much confidence you have in each one, great deal, quite a lot, some or very little." they add a great deal quite a lot to get the number. congress has been stuck at the
bottom of the list. 2021 tele, 12%, four points behind television news. my favorite variation on this sort of survey was done some years back by some smartass pollsters who asked congress to rank congress--people to rank congress decide washington, d.c., political pundits, and all of those things outscored congress. congress proved less popular than head lice, colonoscopies, and nickelback, which had to hurt. [laughter] maybe congress deserves some of the disrespect it gets when you think of how much power of the first branch is ceded to the president over the years. is it surprising that the public holds it in such low esteem that it has come to think that it is
a loud and useless performative debating society that is not even good at debate. there is more than a little truth to that. if part of your -- folks want to be popular, part of your status involves being with -- being part of a respected institution, that argues for some degree of self interest in helping congress get its groove back. we know it would do the rest of us some good. maybe he would even new members of congress some good. -- maybe it would even do members of congress some good. with that, i will sit down for the question-and-answer period. [applause]
>> for the q&a segment, i have my handy dandy ipad, where people have been cementing questions--submitting questions vbia online platforms. online audience, keep that up. if any of you in the audience want to ask a question, raise your hand, and jane will bring a mic to you. for some of those submitting online, i might group a couple of things that are a similar theme. from jeff abramson and an anonymous user, a question about partisanship and how partisanship impacts the question of congressional war powers. jeff says -- oh, sorry. jeff's question was not on partisanship. my bad. "how can we expect the legislative branch to discharge
its role when it is driven bipartisan dysfunction?" gene, if you want to take a crack at that. gene: sure, that is a real problem. that's of a problem then -- madison had the view that ambition would counter ambition and the interests of the people would -- within each body can each branch, would lead them to defend the constitutional rights of the place. that hasn't worked out that well in modern times, particularly when the presidency and the legislature and the legislative branch are in the same hands. when you have divided government, you tend to see partisanship working in a way that gets you more oversight and more scrutiny and more pushback from congress.
but i think this is a huge problem. i think it was something like only 12 republican senators voted to disapprove president trump's border wall emergency. you know for a fact that the tally would be radically different if barack obama had invoked a national emergency power to build solar panels or something like that. it is a huge problem, and i think outside of the brief times when it benefits you and works in the favor of interbranch friction, i do think it is something that we need to get beyond, and that is one reason i generally applaud institutionalists like senator murphy of either party -- mike
lee has a largely similar record . anyone who is willing to go against the president of their own party on these fundamental issues of separation of powers, we need to see more of it. >> thanks. jordan can i have one from you about end-use monitoring, which were deep in the weeds on in a good way. licenses and end-user certificates for firearm exports to mexican police do not identify veneto users despite extensive human rights violations. how can controls be strengthened? jordan: i'm going to be the pessimistic one here. i think end-use monitoring is a big problem.
even with things that in theory are designed to help come anybody will tell you it is a problem. i think this legislation does not really get there too much -- >> lena bit closer into the mic. jordan: this legislation doesn't get there too much, but if legislation like this were to be passed, this would be a first step. >> question from the audience? >> my question has to do with subject of arms export, arms sales. the most powerful argument normally given for arms sales is economic, and the simple fact that if united states industry
does not sell certain arms to foreign buyers, than french, the british, the russian, the chinese, the israeli khamenei number of other countries will do so. restricting arms exports would have no impact on the ground but simply will harm the u.s. economy. i wonder if any of the panelists could speak to that issue, since it is the overriding issue in every discussion about arms exports. >> i can take that one. that is a great question. generally speaking that is the most powerful argument, and from a strategy point, the argument is that if the u.s. doesn't do it, consider else will fill in. i am skeptical about that argument both from the literature and economics that suggests the weapons industry is an inefficient industry. it seems fairly logical that those jobs could still exist.
from just a strategy perspective , a lot of these countries don't want french or chinese weapons. it is easy to say that saudi arabia cannot get the weapons, it will turn to russia or china. generally speaking that is not the way this works because it saudi arabia's militaries mainly made up of u.s. weapons. they cannot just turn to russia and get weapons. france and the uae recently agreed on arms sales. that happens whether or not the u.s. sells weapons. if u.s. is in selling the weapons, u.s. is not attached to whatever conflict those are going to be used in. you see this with saudi arabia, uae, turkey. it is easy for them to say that if you don't give us weapons, we will get them from somebody else . that is true, but the alternative is we won't be part of your war.
as a libertarian, the biggest threat to freedom is the state going to war. >> any other questions in the audience? getting a blinking light saying we are technically overtime. i think i will take one more question. >> to go off that last question, with this supply dependencies that these arms sales bring, what sort of reforms would you like to see congress enact to ensure that the weapons are not being used in ways that they don't approve of? >> that's a great question, thank you. i think it -- this is a great first step. my fear is that this first step doesn't happen. i'm fairly pessimistic on the arms sales and this being able
to pass. generally speaking, democratic congresses don't want to restrain a democratic president and a republican congress may want to restrain a democratic president, but they are not going to do it on weapons sales. the national defense authorization act which has these small little amendments that do help evaluate risk or stop sales to reducing the conflict nem and, a really important -- conflict in yemen, are really important. >> any closing words? gene: no. >> thank you all for coming. apologies for running overtime. great to see you all in the audience. thank you to everyone watching at home as well. big round of applause for our participants. [applause] thanks. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy.
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